Good morning Cougar fans. Since the game ended late last night, I’ve been trying to decide how I would approach today’s column. So many angles. So many things that could fit into the good (ESPECIALLY) /bad/ugly categories. While that one could practically write itself, I think I’ll give you an admittedly self-centered look at my last couple days, and hopefully you can find some parallels.
The planning for my family’s trip up here began last spring, when we found out my dad would be retiring from his 25 years as a state electrical inspector. We decided to surprise him. At the time, I was honestly considering not coming to the game (yes, take as many whacks with the cat o’ nine tails as you like). The last three games I’d been to were all kinds of terrible, and facing USC brought a big chance for that to happen again.
On top of that, the only two games my sons had seen live were 2015 Portland State and last year’s Apple Cup, so there wasn’t a whole lot of motivation to go through this again. Once again, the lure of taking my boys to a Cougar game won out. Despite some airline-induced buffoonery, we made it to Spokane. After leaving security, we spotted a WSU player you may have heard of.
Quite the good start! After that, we went home and surprised dad/grandpa, followed by a huge retirement party at the Swinging Doors in Spokane. We’ve had a close attachment to this bar forever. The owner, Bob Materne, even snuck me in one time to meet LC Greenwood when I was probably eight. Bob and his wife, Barb, are incredibly nice people.
On game day, it was time to meet up in the B-Lot with Craig and his sister, Sherwood and his wife, Brian Anderson and his girlfriend, Michael Preston, and the other B-Lotters. I even brought my “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time” wife, to give the guys a chance to see the woman who clearly married me under duress. As always, Craig brought awesome beer and Sherwood brought Uptown Girl.
When Bobby found out we were going to the game, he hooked us up with Cougar Den Passes, so we left the B-Lot and headed in. I’d never been in there, but the food was quite good and the drinks were poured generously.
Another good sign came while in the Cougar Den:
From there, it was into Martin Stadium. [Editor’s Note: It can’t go without mentioning that security busted my mom, twice, for taking drinks past the designated perimeter. Damn retirees thinking the rules don’t apply to them] All of us were filled with high hopes, but many of us (yours truly included) were pretty damn nervous. There had been countless times when it felt like WSU was just as good as USC, only to see USC make one more play or WSU trip over itself (cough 1996 cough)
For some reason, I didn’t think WSU would trip over itself like it always seemed to do in these games. It felt like they’d be ready. Then the game started, and it was easy to tell that the Cougars were ready to go. A good offensive drive that should have been a TD but ended in a field goal was ok.
Then USC came out and moved through WSU like it was 7-on-7. Not a good sign. However, USC would make one, ONE big play the rest of the night, when Ronald Jones did his best to apply a dagger, going 86 yards to take the lead. Now here’s when it could have all gone south and didn’t - WSU was backed up to its 10, and Uchenna Nwosu made an outstanding play to intercept a Falk pass. Suddenly, WSU was almost certainly looking at a 21-10 deficit.
The next four USC plays were run for one yard, incomplete pass, run for no gain, field goal. If I had to point to one sequence that likely saved the game for WSU, that’s it. Faced with an 11-point deficit, the defense bowed up and kept USC out. What an incredible effort.
Needing 94 yards to tie the game before halftime, the WSU offense put on a clinic, taking the ball with 4:56 left and nearly draining all of it, culminating in a touchdown. I don’t know about you, but facing 2nd-and-goal at the USC 1 yardline with no timeouts, I certainly thought a pass was coming. Something tells me USC did, too. So of course Jamal Morrow gets the ball, cuts right as the o-line washes down the entire USC d-line, and walks in to tie the game. What a call, what a play.
The second half was just as back-and-forth, but the big thing that stuck out to me was the field position. WSU punted on two straight possessions in the 3rd quarter, one by Kyle Sweet and one by Erik Powell. Following a 17-yard Sweet punt, USC only made it as far as the 50, but their punt rested on the WSU 2. The Cougs got a little space, but after a bad bounce on the next punt, USC was once again set up deep in WSU territory.
Hercules wasn’t having any of it. He burst through the line to stop Ronald Jones, and USC was kicking two plays later. Once again, the defense had been given a pretty bad draw. Once again, they kept USC out of the endzone.
After that, it was winning time. The Cougs took the ball at the 25 and marched down the field. Facing a stress-inducing 4th-and-2 at the 34, Leach decided to go for it. Falk dropped a dime to Kyle Sweet along the USC sideline, and Sweet hung on. As the fans were catching their breath, Jamal Morrow was taking a shovel pass and slicing through USC and into the endzone. It’s fair to say that moment might be the loudest I’ve ever heard Martin Stadium. The place was on tilt.
Of course, this is still Cougar Football, and they were still facing USC, so it couldn’t be easy. After a 3rd-and-long on which USC ran a draw play to set up for 4th down, the defense stoned him, setting up 4th-and-12. Here was their chance. Frankie Luvu burst through, and was about an inch from drilling Sam Darnold, but Darnold did what he often does, lofting a pass between multiple defenders for a completion and first down. Gut punch. USC would tie it up in short order.
Even still, TOO MUCH TIME. Falk once again led the Cougs on a methodical drive. When Jamal Morrow dashed up the middle for 35 yards, I finally dared myself to think we were actually going to win (even though I said the entire game that WSU was the better team). Needing two yards to practically ice the game, James Williams could only muster one. After an Erik Powell field goal, Cougar fans around the world began constructing diamonds in their backsides.
Not to worry, #SpeedD is on it. The line once again got to Darnold, forcing a throwaway that was clearly (to me in the seats) intentional grounding that wasn’t called. Turns out that was fine. On 2nd down, Jahad Woods sliced up the middle on a blitz, Darnold dropped the ball and the Cougars got it. Ballgame. They’d done it again, by the identical score they did it in 2002. The place was absolutely insane.
Back to my family. By this time, my 5 year-old son was cooked, so the moms took him and my niece home in the second quarter. The remaining hearty souls were my oldest boy, my brother and his son, and my dad. So I look at my brother and ask, “Do we take the boys down on the field?” His response, “Well Jackson (my son) is already at the bottom of the stairs, so I’d say yes.” That made the answer easy.
So we tried to find some players for pictures amid the madness. Who do you think would be the easiest player to spot in a huge crowd? YEP, THE CONTINENT
If one is good, two is even better!
More postgame fun with BOOBIE pic.twitter.com/J1v0M7Bdyx— PJ Kendall ✈ ⚰ (@Deathby105) September 30, 2017
But as much as this was about football, this weekend was about family. Getting to celebrate the end of a hard-working career for my dad, in which he often worked two jobs to get my brother and I through grade school and high school, and used several weekends to work side jobs (often as a favor), moments like this make you look back and appreciate what got you here, and realize how great it is that you didn’t get here alone.
Fathers, sons, families and football. Congratulations from my family to the Cougar Football family, and sincere thanks for giving us a memory we will never forget.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t culminate this with some victory bourbon.
No. 16 Washington State takes down No. 5 USC in major Martin Stadium upset | The Spokesman-Review
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The Cougars have beaten ranked teams under Leach, but more often they have balked in the big moment – Apple Cups, showdowns like last year’s date at Colorado and a couple of regrettable bowl games. Maybe those teams didn’t understand they were that good, or maybe they just weren’t.
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Photo album from WSU's victory over USC.
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Few moments in Washington State football history compare to the ones that follow an upset of the country’s fifth-ranked team. As far as moments go, Friday’s 30-27 triumph over USC could very well be a chart-topper. It’s a contender at the very least.
Sam Darnold struggles, and so does No. 5 USC in loss to No. 16 Washington State 30-27 - LA Times
Sam Darnold put his hands on his hips, unfastened his chinstrap and walked, slowly, to USC’s sideline. Coach Clay Helton met him there and put his hand around Darnold’s back.
USC simply didn't deserve a victory at Washington State - LA Times
While Washington State fans savored a 30-27 victory over USC, the Trojans only have themselves to blame for their 13-game winning streak coming to an end.
Washington State hands USC its first loss of season – Daily News
Before USC gained one yard on the drive, Darnold was dragged to the Martin Stadium turf, sacked by Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods, the football battered out of his right hand before he could attempt a pass. The ball rolled a few more yards until it was scooped up by a defensive lineman.
USC’s offensive line hit with injuries at Washington State – Daily News
Amid a rash of injuries, USC was also without its starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn against Washington State on Friday night.
Washington State upsets USC: Sam Darnold struggles in 30-27 loss | SI.com
Sam Darnold turned in the worst passing game of his career. Luke Falk and Mike Leach turned in a giant win for the Cougars.
Best beer I had this week: Craig brought lots of great stuff, as always. He broke out a Russian Imperial Stout whose name escapes me. What did not escape me was how great it was.
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